Well kids, we’re back for another season of ‘Glee’, bigger and better than ever – but tinged with sorrow from the beginning. The most glaringly obvious feature of the 2-episode Beatles tribute is the fact that not a single character so much as mentions Finn. No one remarks on his absence from the pivotal events in either episode; they don’t even acknowledge his existence (or lack thereof).
Actually, I take that back – we do see a subtle mention of him in the first number of the premiere episode (appropriately titled “Love, Love, Love”). We begin with Rachel’s “Funny Girl” callback, in which she has a “chemistry” reading with the show’s leading man. (Remember, last season ended before the end of the school year.) The director ends the reading rather abruptly (but not unkindly) and sends our young ingenue on her way. As she leaves the theater, she hears the two men debating her performance and worrying that she’s too “green” for the role. In frustration, she wanders the streets of Manhattan, singing a lovely and melancholy version of “Yesterday”. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot that she seems to walk the same route that she and Finn took on their ‘work date’ from the season 2 finale; in fact, there are bubbles in the park, a stop at Sardi’s, and a lingering shot on the Bow Bridge where she pulls her phone out to look at a photo of the original New Directions with their very first Sectionals trophy. After her initial song, we also see that she’s landed a paying gig (with Santana’s help) as a singing waitress at the Starlight Cafe. As part of that gig, she gets to confront the director and male lead who doubted her star power with a kicky cover of “A Hard Days’ Night”.
Back in Ohio, Mr. Schue has given the new kids a 2-week assignment to explore the music of the Beatles, in hopes that it will inspire them and help create a New Directions dynasty at Nationals. The first week focuses on the band’s early material and how they had to work hard together to achieve the success they wanted. Artie opens in style by serenading Kitty with “Baby You Can Drive My Car” and inviting her to a carnival. The montage of the group having fun like ordinary teenagers is adorable and sweet, but I would really like to know how cracked-out a carny has to be to strap the wheelchair kid into the Gravitron – just sayin’. Also, can we please get Artie a girl who’ll like him for himself all the time – please? I loved that Kitty wanting to keep their thing on the down-low led to some amazing musical chemistry in the form of “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”, but really! He’s been dumped for not being Asian (Tina) or a girl (Brittany), and had a 1-night stand at Mr. Schue’s wedding with Emma’s niece who he’ll never hear from again. Oh, and Sugar chose Rory over him in season 3 because she felt sorrier for the boy who was going to be deported! Tina finally outs the couple to the glee club, and to Kitty’s credit, she publicly confirms that “she and Arthur are an item”. As an aside, the subplot about Tina’s growing bitterness leads to one of the first night’s best performances – a pitch-perfect, black-and-white rendition of “I Saw Her Standing There” dedicated to Tina herself. The boys sweetly offer themselves up as candidates to be her prom date. The girls are hilarious and ebullient as screaming Beatlemaniacs, and Blaine has never looked as handsome as he did while channeling an impossibly young Paul McCartney.
Speaking of Blaine and Kurt, the first episode saw them rekindle their relationship. Kurt, lover of all things theatrical that he is, agreed to this with a marching band rendition of “Got To Get You Into My Life” on the McKinley High quad after a charming picnic lunch. Oh, and that thing that made your dog run up to the TV and whine during the performance? Yeah, that was just the sound of a million “Klaine” fangirls squeeing at a pitch that only your four-legged friend can hear. (I myself may have been somewhat guilty; these boys are just so damned adorable!) Emboldened by this new development, Blaine decides to follow through on his decision to ask for Kurt’s hand in marriage. Sam’s fumbling endorsement of same-sex marriage is one of the cutest things in existence, as is the music montage of “Help”, wherein the McKinley gang rounds up The Warblers, Vocal Adrenaline and The Haverbrook Choir for the Deaf to assist with Blaine’s proposal. Also, Burt Hummel continues to be the best TV dad in the history of EVER, as evidenced by the advice he gives to Kurt about said proposal. Kurt ‘fesses up that he knows what’s about to happen, and asks for his dad’s opinion on how he should answer. While reminding Kurt that life is short and that he should at least listen to what Blaine has to say, Burt stops short of telling Kurt what he told Blaine (namely, that marrying so young is ridiculous). Instead, he says that what he thinks doesn’t really matter and that Kurt is his own man now. After a charming performance of “All You Need Is Love” by the assembled glee clubs in the very Dalton Academy hallway where the boys first met, Blaine pours his heart out in one of the most touching proposals ever. Kurt says yes, of course, but Rachel’s face nearly stole the scene. At a time when this character should have also had a ring on her finger, Lea Michele was clearly crying tears that were not entirely happy. As much as I loved this whole episode, Finn missing his little brother getting engaged just hurt my heart a little more than I anticipated it would.
The second Beatles episode, entitled “Tina In The Sky With Diamonds”, opens with the girl in question having been nominated for prom queen along with Kitty, and in full-on diva mode as a result. She harangues her campaign manager/personal buttmonkey, Dottie Kazatori, and dumps Sam as her prom date in an effort to “court the dejected wallflower” vote. After learning that Kitty intends to support Tina for prom queen, the new HBIC Cheerio, Bree, spits a hilariously offensive rant at her and then ropes Dottie into a nasty little scheme to humiliate Tina at prom, Carrie-style.
In New York, Rachel still hasn’t heard back about her “Funny Girl” callback, and she’s moping something fierce. Enter a newly-engaged Kurt to her pick up her spirits with a rousing duet of “Get Back”. Although these two voices aren’t really best-suited for rock music with a harder edge like this song, it continues to be wonderful to hear Chris Colfer use his lower register. Memo to Ryan Murphy and Adam Anders – please let him do it more often! Aiding Rachel in cheering herself up is the prospect of playing “Yenta the lesbian matchmaker” between Santana and Dani, another member of the waitstaff at Starlight Cafe. Watching Miss Lima Heights Adjacent get all flustered over a girl is precious beyond words, and I can’t wait to hear more beautiful duets between Naya Rivera and Demi Lovato, if “Here Comes The Sun” is any indication. Also, Santana’s “Yeast-I-Stat” commercial may just be the best damn thing I’ve seen all week. “I like yeast in my bagel, not in my muffin” was the quote of the night!
Back in Lima, Principal Sue (God help us all!) has hired a local 2nd-year med student to be the new school nurse, and is insisting on booster immunizations for McKinley’s entire student body. Sam has an issue with needles and refuses to get the shot, but then he meets the new nurse. The only thing missing is Yakko and Wakko Warner exclaiming “Hello, Nurse!” He spends a sweet musical montage singing “Something”, but to no avail. When he goes to her office for a ridiculously made-up ailment, he finds that Sue has fired her for incompetence. He impulsively decides to swallow his fear, drops trou and presents her his butt for the shot. Then he marches back to the principal’s office and manages to talk Sue into keeping her on.
Finally, prom night has arrived and Tina sweeps into the dance in an amazing grey dress that looks like some swans might have sang their last to make it possible. The New Directions continue their habit of being unpaid entertainment at school events, with Marley, Jake, Ryder and Unique performing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in costumes straight from the album cover. Sue takes the stage to announce the prom royalty – Stoner Brett is voted prom king to Tina’s prom queen -and then the inevitable happens. I was waiting for it last year when Rachel and Finn got the honor, but no. Poor Tina ends up wearing an entire bucket of red slushie, and the bucket knocks Brett out cold. She runs to the choir room in tears, and even though the rest of the glee club sings “Hey Jude” to cheer her up, it’s Blaine who convinces her not to go home. This show does love its parallels, and I was struck by the similarities in tone between his advice to Tina and his advice to prom queen Kurt in season 2.
The final number of the second night is in honor of the old Rachel, who is informed that she’s been cast as Fanny Brice in the “Funny Girl” revival, and the new Rachel (Tina), who goes back to face the crowd in a dress she borrowed from Kitty. The New York and Lima groups both sing “Let It Be” as a final tribute to the Beatles and to the long and winding road all the glee kids have taken to get to this point. Not gonna lie, it felt just a little bit hollow that Rachel didn’t immediately call Finn to share her good fortune, and I’m dreading the next episode a little bit. But I also know that great beauty can come from pain, and sorrow never lasts forever.